America just had a political revolution at the ballot boxes. Many historical and political lessons were learned and the history books will forever refer to this moment as the era in which America changed course after 70 years of post-World War policies.
The question we now face as a nation is whether Donald Trump can bring together the diverse landscape that is America with common core initiatives or if he will continue to divide the nation. Can and will we, as a nation, begin the process of blending our deep red and blue colors into a unified purple and create a new direction for America?
Smashing the Establishment
What we have witnessed over the past two years represents a historical milestone in American history. This was a 2nd American revolution not fought with guns and militia, but rather, two iconic revolutionaries who wielded sledgehammers. One was of course, Donald Trump. The other: Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately for Bernie, the Democratic Party’s Fortress was too thick to knock down and the army entrenched behind the fortress deployed unscrupulous tactics to fend off his onslaught. Even though he and his followers wailed away and made cracks to the wall, in the end, the Democratic Fortress remained. The establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, out maneuvered him the opposition.
However, history will convey that the Democratic Fortress collapsed on Election Night. Clinton’s loss in the Rust Belt was a result of failing blue collar workers over decades, a lack of support with African Americans (more than an additional 6 million voters came out for Barack Obama), and the fact that nearly 30% of Hispanic voters – thought to be Clinton’s saving grace – went for Trump.
On the other side of the revolution, Trump began his uprising with a relentless swinging of his sledgehammer at the steps of the Republican Party Fortress. Nothing was sacred to save as he hammered the establishment. He openly mocked and belittled the establishment candidates, challenged and opposed long held economic trade policies, and called the entire system corrupt. He was blunt, outspoken, rude, ridiculed anyone who opposed him, and just kept swinging. People loved his tactics.
Americans love their country. We love the freedoms, opportunities
and ability to support and cherish the small and large things that make life important to us. The American Dream has always been about self-pride and dignity, ingenuity and innovation, self-expression and individual character, and most importantly, self-sufficiency created by economic opportunities which allow one to scale the ladder of success without impediment. But democracy only works when ALL Americans engage. Although a battle for America’s future was at stake on November 8, nearly 50% of adult Americans stood on the sidelines and merely watched. Only 120 million Americans voted on election day and over 100 million Americans stayed home. Here lies a critical problem with America. Almost half of our voting eligible citizens sit back and watch, yet many will complain about the outcome and their circumstances and never look at themselves and their own responsibilities in our democracy.
When I entered the publishing world a decade ago, leaving behind my career in political consulting, I wrote extensively about the consequences the globalized economy has had on many segments of America. In my opinion, this election and the unprecedented revolution that Trump brought to America was about people who were lost and forgotten over the last several decades as we entered and embraced a global economy and cheaper labor in foreign countries.
As I have previously discussed, both Democratic and Republican leaders have failed to address and resolve the negative consequences of their public policy decisions; such as the open-ended global outsourcing of manufacturing and allowing corporations to depart the United States to seek tax havens abroad. While the working class suffered, our leaders continued arrogantly down these paths, oblivious to the consequences.
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton presented to the American public two very different paths intended to maintain the American Dream. Donald Trump entered the race as an independent-minded reformist and merely used the Republican Party as a vehicle to drive his campaign and yet, remain un-tied to any of the establishment’s economic and foreign policies. Hillary Clinton entered the race as the traditional coalition Democrat Fortress protector with broad messages to each of the coalition’s segments.
Hillary’s loss in three critical Rust Belt States that were once solid blue was because she failed to address, with specific solutions, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the subsequent devastation to Middle America. Her loss was not about her private server, investigations, Bill or her pantsuits. Unfortunately, the issues and paths – or consequential policy – were overshadowed by the media and paid advertisements which launched full-blown personal attacks and aimed to assassinate character.
What we all witnessed on the night of November 8 was our democratic process forcing a change that has been more powerful than any other historical revolt or revolution since the founding of our nation. In the end, the ‘silent majority’ consisting of the working-class people and families in Middle America who have seen and felt the decline and erosion of the American Dream put Trump over the finish line and into the White House, purely for economic reasons. For the nearly 50% that stayed at home, they have no right to complain.
Whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate and Congress can proceed onward with policies that address and correct our decades long foreign policy mistakes is yet to be seen. How the administration and power-checking politicians behave and cooperate with one another will determine if our policies are guided by common goals of the people and for the people. But to reach this point of civility, debate and compromise, we must first look inward towards our shared values and where we want America to go, and determine what role and responsibility each segment of our society must play to keep the American Dream alive.
Shared Responsibility and the Consequences of Policy Decisions
In my opinion, there have been 6 major public policy directions that America has taken over the last fifty years that are now being challenged: The World Order, Global Economics, Poverty, Individual Rights, Advanced Technology and Government Reform.
The World Order
The post-World War II position of America fighting Communism on every continent and trying to impose a secular democracy in countries dominated by religion has failed. Once Richard Nixon opened the diplomatic and economic doors to China, and yet, maintained our fervent opposition to Russia, Cuba, North Korea and other non-democratic countries, America forged a path of two-faced foreign policy. The Middle East religious zealots and dictators became our “allies” despite the fact that their own values and governance is diametrically opposite to us.
I believe that Trump will begin a new world order based on economic development and begin to steer us out of the Middle East debacle, all the while maintaining and protecting Israel.
New energy sources will be the common bond between this new world order to completely escape from the Middle East. Investments in new non-fossil energy will become a common goal with the United States, Germany, Japan and China leading the charge. Short-term fossil fuels will be required to sustain the world and independence from the Middle East will be the strategic objective.
Wall Street blew up corporate America’s contract with American workers and middle management beginning in the 1980s with the onslaught of “leverage buyouts.”
Human capital and resources were no longer investments to be cherished, nurtured and developed, but rather, line item expenses to be cut. The first wave was the elimination of middle management jobs, followed by elimination of American workers. Since 1980, American corporations have shed more than 20 million manufacturing jobs and yet, neither Wall Street nor the Federal Government have put into play plans to re-invent the American middle class.
One of the major hurdles Trump and the Republican Congress must address and recognize is how Wall Street and major corporations use the tax savings that are being proposed. Tax cuts do spur economic investments, however, those investments must be made in America and not in foreign countries.
The War on Poverty that began with Lyndon Johnson brought on many social changes necessary for Black Americans who were living in government-sanctioned segregation and who were not being granted the right to achieve the American Dream. However, many of these economic policies that were designed to end poverty and lead the Black community into mainstream America inadvertently advanced many in the Black community into further economic enslavement; especially if they did not have the educational and deep family infrastructure to move forward. Many entered the vicious cycle of inner city poverty, gangs, and lack of hope. These issues are real and can no longer be debated as racial issues, but rather, economic issues.
This issue has been polarizing America since the introduction of the ERA and women’s rights, along with abortion and gay rights. Deeply held Christian values that fundamentally oppose secular rights when opposite their religious doctrines has and will remain an issue of contention and conflict.
I believe that Trump will try to avoid these deep religious/secular issues and advocate for state independence and determination.
Despite all the political turmoil, conflicts, and economic challenges, the one thing that is radically changing our modern civilization is technology.
From a historical perspective of civilization, we have entered an era of unprecedented and rapid advancement of how we live, work and play. Technology is challenging everything we once knew as the truth: The universe. The human body. The connection of people and places. The way we live and work.
In my opinion, we have entered an unchartered world of advanced technology that has only just begun. Computers, cell phones and gadgets are just the beginning of tools that will truly create a new economy for America and the world. How we as a society and our government determine to harness these capabilities and capacity may determine what the future holds for our economy and the rebirth of the American Dream.
Technology has allowed us to become more efficient and to have immediate direct communications with our customers and market. Instant access, communications and quality control are now the norm in business. Yet, when it comes to government management, we have one big mess of overlapping entities, rules and regulations and a lack of accountability within our civil servant system.
Local cities, counties and state agencies want to remain independent of one another and fear losing autonomy and control. Civil servant unions fear losing power, members and long-term job security. Congress has become a career and not public service and the entrenched protectors of the fortresses fight to protect their insular worlds.
Will Trump’s call for a Constitutional Amendment on term limits go anywhere? Will structural changes to the way we organize and finance government services and even the Electoral College be a priority? My guess is no.
In each of these six core pillars, we need to be open and honest as a nation and truly debate, without personal attacks, our options and the consequences of each policy that the new President and Congress enact.
We have shared responsibilities and accountability to keep our nation moving forward and to keep the American Dream alive. Finger pointing must first be inwards before we come to the table to debate and shape our future.
Now is the time to begin a new dialogue in America that is honest and straightforward to strengthen and keep the American Dream alive.